Turbine to Harness the Tides to Generate Power
The fearsome tides that sweep out from the easternmost shores of the United States have for more than 80 years teased engineers and presidents like Franklin D. Roosevelt, who have dreamed of harnessing their force to make electricity.
And next week, a device that looks a bit like an eggbeater turned sideways will be lowered into the water here to catch the energy of the rushing water, spinning a generator that, come September, is scheduled to begin sending power to the grid.
It is an experimental, expensive and promising project, fueled by the knowledge — shared by Roosevelt, who spent summers across the bay on Campobello Island, and modern engineers — that the tides here are both powerful and predictable.
“When the wind blows, you get electricity, but you don’t know when that’s going to be,” said Chris Sauer, the chief executive of the Ocean Renewable Power Company, which built and will operate the turbine generator unit, called TidGen.
The Bay of Fundy has some of the world’s highest tides, causing extreme currents that are pushed even faster by the inlets and islands that speckle this rocky coast. They will propel the turbine’s blades, which twist around like the helix shape of DNA.
“Another advantage is, you don’t see a thing,” Mr. Sauer added, speaking to a criticism that has dogged many wind farms.
When this project starts delivering electricity to the grid under a power-purchasing agreement, it will be the first tidal-power turbine to do so in the United States, says Steven G. Chalk, the deputy assistant secretary for renewable energy. The Department of Energy has put up $10 million of the roughly $21 million in costs, hoping that tidal power can establish itself as part of the country’s arsenal of energy alternatives.
“It’s a big milestone for our water power program, where we’re getting something in the water that’s grid-connected,” Mr. Chalk said. “A big demonstration, under real operating conditions.”